Walking the Woods

After a week at home with a bad cold that had me coughing up a storm, it was good to finally get out and just take a short walk in the local woods.

While I was convalescing, I finally read Bill Bryson‘s book,  A Walk in the Woods, which had been on my bookstack for a few years.
Bill Bryson is an American who spent 20 years in England and has written  for British and American publications. I had had read earlier one of his travel memoirs – Notes from a Small Island. I had picked it up because I never got the chance to be an American in England. I had also read one of his language books, The Mother Tongue – English And How It Got That Way, because I have been an English teacher for four decades and a lover of language even longer.

A Walk in the Woods is the account of his attempts to walk the Appalachian Trail. After his years in England, Bryson (now living in New Hampshire, with his wife and his four children)  decided to reacquaint himself with his homeland by walking the 2,100-mile Appalachian Trail. (The subtitle of the book is Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail)

I had the same ambition when I was in my early twenties to walk the AT from Georgia to Maine. My goal was to find myself rather than America.

I read several books about the trail, bought maps, made plans. Completing the entire 2,190 miles of the Appalachian Trail in one trip is a mammoth undertaking. Each year, thousands of hikers attempt a thru-hike and only about one in four makes it all the way.

According to AppalachianTrail.org, a typical thru-hiker takes 5 to 7 months to hike the entire A.T. You can walk in either direction, but there is a lot of planning, setting resupply points, regulations, and physical and mental preparations.

I did what many sojourners do at first. I hiked sections of the trail nearest to me on day and weekend hikes. My section hikes ended with a blown-out knee. Then came the birth of my sons, and life, and my hikes became mostly walks. That is not a bad thing.

I don’t know if my thru-hike would have been as fun or funny as Bryson’s. He is joined by an out-of-shape buddy, Stephen, who is often more on a quest to find a nice restaurants than enlightenment. He and Bryson find their stride and encounter many interesting and funny characters.

A Walk in the Woods is not all laughs and you’ll learn about the AT’s history and (hopefully) come to believe in the need for the conservation of this fragile wilderness.

The book would be a good weekend armchair adventure on a cold and snowy weekend. And if you’re not even up to a weekend reading adventure quite yet, you can start with the movie version of A Walk in the Woods with Robert Redford and Nick Nolte. I haven’t seen it yet, so leave me a review.

Happy trails to you.

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A lifelong educator on and off the Internet. Random by design and predictably irrational. It's turtles all the way down. Dolce far niente.

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